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Junior Parents Weekend allows students to introduce their family to the Notre Dame community

| Monday, February 18, 2019

This past weekend, parents of Notre Dame juniors flooded campus for Junior Parents Weekend (JPW), a deep-rooted tradition in the Notre Dame community that has taken place annually ever since the first “Parent-Son Day” was held in 1953.

The weekend kicked off with a gala Friday night in the Duncan Student Center, which featured music, food, dancing, cash bars and opportunities for photographs and caricature drawings. Saturday’s events included academic programs, Mass and the President’s dinner. The weekend concluded with a brunch Sunday in the Dahnke Ballroom.

Sophia Lauber | The Observer

Juniors and their parents eat at a brunch Sunday, which culminated the Junior Parents Weekend festivities.

This year was the second year that the Duncan Student Center was available for use for the event, so, while JPW executive chair junior Eric Kim said that the committee followed a lot of precedents established last year, there were also a few changes made to the gala — the biggest of these changes being the decision to expand the opening gala to Corbett Family Hall.

“I believe that student activities and division of student affairs will do this again,” Kim said. “It definitely eased the traffic that Duncan had last year and improved the crowd control.”

Another notable change was the addition of more cash bars at the gala, a development that was implemented in response to complaints about the lengths of lines from last year.

With the improved flow of crowds, Friday night went smoothly, except for a small incident with an elevator that got stuck. Kim said while he did not know the details of what happened, he saw a large group of people exiting the elevator shouting with excitement.

“Someone told me they were stuck for an hour and 15 minutes or so,” he said.  “It must’ve been claustrophobic. Hopefully they made some good memories.”

Overall, Kim said that he believes the weekend is an “opportunity for junior parents to explore our spiritual, academic and social lifestyle here at Notre Dame.”

The academic programs that took place Saturday morning gave parents an opportunity to experience their students’ academic lifestyle within the University, especially those in the College of Arts and Letters, junior Shady Girgis said in an email.

“I hope the parents that attended the Arts and Letters program got a good idea of what a true liberal arts education at Notre Dame looks like,” Girgis said. “Also, I hope they realize the absolutely open world their children can explore upon graduation with the mentorship and guidance of the incredible faculty we have in the College of Arts and Letters.”

Another goal of this year’s committee was to carry on the efforts of last year’s committee to make the weekend’s events affordable for more juniors, Kim said.

“Our main goal was to establish more publicity with the Office of Student Enrichment, so in every email that we sent out before tickets sales, we incorporated the idea that financial assistance is available for students that are in need of it and that do want the assistance,” he said.

Kim said he believes this year’s committee was successful in increasing the number of students who applied for assistance.

Junior Takunda Ushe said he was originally not planning on having his parents attend JPW until his rector reached out to him and encouraged him to look into financial assistance. With the help of the Office of Student Enrichment, Ushe was able to have both his local host mom and his parents from South Africa attend JPW. Ushe said the weekend was a big deal for both him and his parents, who have never been to Notre Dame or the United States before.

“I think I navigate between two worlds — my life before Notre Dame and my life at Notre Dame,” Ushe said. “To have those two worlds come together is just like everything coming full circle for me. It still feels surreal. I would never think that I would have my parents walking down in front of the grotto or the main building. It’s just unthinkable.”

The weekend offered Ushe and many other junior students the opportunity to share with their parents the aspects of Notre Dame’s community that cannot fully be expressed in words, Ushe said.

“No one has told them about the whole educating not just the mind but also the soul — they just saw that for themselves,” Ushe said.

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